Day Laborers and a Worker Center in DC

Frequently Asked QuestionsrnrnWhat is a day laborer? rnA day laborer is someone who seeks work on a day-to-day basis, usually without a formal relationship with an employer. While day laborers seek work in a variety of locations and do a wide range of types of work, day laborers most commonly gather in outdoor locations, such as parks, parking lots, and street corners, and work in construction and manual labor. The largest gathering of day laborers is near the Home Depot store on Rhode Island Ave, NE. However, day laborers are also picked up for work at other locations around the city, including at the corner of 15th and P, NW in the Logan Circle area, at temp agencies such as Labor Ready, in parks around the city, and outside homeless shelters.rnrnWho are day laborers in DC? rnThe majority of day laborers in DC are immigrants from Latin America, but there are also a significant number of African-American day laborers, especially among the homeless population. Day laborers range in age, from teenagers to individuals in their 60s and 70s, but most (63%) are younger than 38 years of age, according to a 2005 study of day laborers in the Washington metropolitan area. Day laborers include both US-born individuals, and immigrants with a range of status, from full citizens to undocumented workers. rnrnWhy would someone become a day laborer? rnMen and women seek casual work for a variety of reasons, but all day laborers share a need to support themselves and their families. More than two-thirds of day laborers have at least one child. rnSome day laborers go back and forth between regular jobs, and seek day labor work when other work is unavailable. Others have barriers that make it difficult for them to obtain regular employment, such as homelessness, a prison record, addiction, immigration status, or lack of skills. rnrnWhat kinds of problems are associated with day labor? rnBecause day laborers do not have formal work arrangements, they are subject to many labor rights violations, including not being paid the minimum wage, not being paid the full amount they are owed, and not being provided with the necessary health and safety protections. Workers who gather outside are unprotected from heat and cold, and often face harassment and risk arrest if they gather on private property. Because workers who are not hired early in the day often remain outside for long periods of time, labor pick-up sites face the same kinds of challenges that impact other spaces where large groups of people gather without access to shelter or bathrooms, such as public drinking and urination and littering. rnrnWhat is a worker center? rnA worker center is a non-profit entity that enforces workers’ rights and promotes employment opportunities. Worker centers vary, but many facilitate hiring of day laborers in order to both protect the workers and provide employers with quality work. This is different from a labor pool or temporary staffing agency because the contractor pays the worker directly, and the center takes no profit from the transaction. Worker centers can also offer services, such as legal assistance, job training, language classes, and social service referrals. rnrnWhat would be the benefits of a worker center in DC?rnA worker center in DC could provide a safe space for day laborers and their employers to meet and carry out their negotiations while also enhancing public safety. Workers would experience less harassment from unscrupulous employers and improve their relationship with the police and community members. A day labor center would also provide some amenities to address the basic needs of the workers and respond to the health and safety related concerns the community has, like the drinking of alcohol, public urination and littering by some. rnrnWhat kinds of services would a worker center offer in DC?rnA worker center in DC would help enforce the rights of all workers and provide an orderly and fair way for temporary workers to get hired by contractors, small businesses and individual homeowners. It could also connect job seekers with training opportunities, legal support, and other needed services. rnrnWho would a worker center serve?rnThe worker center would serve all individuals seeking short-term work in DC, looking for employment-related legal support, or seeking skills to improve their ability to secure full-time, living wage employment. The center would attempt to target services to groups facing the greatest barriers to full-time, living wage employment, including ex-offenders, immigrants, and out of school youth. The center would follow the same practices of other service providers in DC, and would not ask about immigration status or prison record.rnrnAre there successful examples of worker centers in other places?rnThere are dozens of worker centers operating across the country, in urban, rural, and suburban areas, including in Maryland and Virginia, and have been shown as effective ways to safeguard workers’ rights and mitigate the negative impacts associated with day labor. Casa de Maryland operates several centers in Montgomery County, which connect hundreds of day laborers with work and offer a variety of wrap-around services. rnrnWho supports a worker center in DC?rnA broad coalition has come together in support of a worker center in DC, including residents of Ward 5 and day laborers, as well as organizations from across the city, including CARECEN, DC Employment Justice Center, DC Jobs with Justice, Jews United for Justice, Foundry UMC, Grace Episcopal Church, Iglesia Cristiana Nacional Hispana, Interfaith Worker Justice of Greater Washington, Israel Baptist Church, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.rnrn

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